TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida’s prison population is among the largest in the United States and is expected to continue growing in the coming years. This problem is not going away: Roughly one-quarter of Florida inmates reoffend within three years of being released. As these offenders cycle in and out of state and local facilities, they build upon the already crippling corrections costs incurred by taxpayers.
Florida TaxWatch has consistently proposed common sense solutions to reduce the financial burden on taxpayers, ensure public safety and provide guidelines to stop recidivism and help released ex-offenders safely return to the workforce and into society.
Our latest report – Locked Up, Then Locked Out – continues Florida TaxWatch’s leadership on this issue with a focused, prudent analysis and sound policy recommendations.
“Common sense, research, and anecdotal evidence all show that if these released offenders do not secure stable employment, they are more likely to reoffend and return to prison. To decrease recidivism and increase the return on state investment in corrections, ex-offenders needs to be able to find jobs and keep them,” said Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.
“Employment keeps people out of our prisons. Unfortunately, we release offenders without preparing them to assimilate back into society and many businesses steer away from hiring them,” said Florida TaxWatch Center for Smart Justice Co-Chairman and former Supreme Court Justice, Kenneth Bell. “It is in everyone’s best interest to give those with criminal records the skills and opportunity to provide for themselves and their families by facilitating reemployment. Without work, many lose hope; and, without hope, all too many will return to crime.”
Employment is a critical factor in reducing recidivism, and many states have forged policy solutions to address the cyclical relationship between unemployment and crime. To help stop this revolving door in Florida, this TaxWatch report makes recommendations for Florida to improve access to employment opportunities for released ex-offenders; reduce recidivism, drive down future prison populations, and saving taxpayer dollars.
The report recommends that Florida:
- Expand educational, vocational, and reentry programs to provide services to more inmates behind bars and ensure continued educational/employment assistance and support for “Persons with criminal records” (PCRs) post-release;
- Implement a state complement to the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit for employers who hire qualified ex-offenders and;
- Authorize judges and the Florida Commission on Offender Review to issue Certificates of Rehabilitation for PCRs who have completed sanctions and shown commitment to a crime-free life.
“Reentry programs are paramount in helping offenders find jobs once they complete their sentence. The programs offer vital education and employment assistance, giving participants a sense of purpose that helps them desist from crime,” said President and CEO of Bridges of America, Lori Costantino-Brown. “Continuing to fund reentry programs will ensure continued employment assistance to offenders will go a long way in curbing our prison population and improving public safety.”
“The reintegration of released offenders into society is a crucial step in reducing recidivism and improving public safety. One way Florida can drastically reduce their correctional population is by removing government-imposed barriers that make it more difficult for released offenders to find a job once out of jail or prison,” said Right on Crime Policy Director and Texas Public Policy Foundation Director of the Center for Effective Justice, Marc Levin. “Not only will this allow offenders opportunities to assimilate back into society and provide them with means to support themselves, but this will also relieve the over-populated prison system and save Florida taxpayers’ money.”
“Florida has made small steps in criminal justice reform in the last few years, but other states are leading in reforming their criminal justice system. Ensuring that offenders are able to find jobs once they exit the corrections system is crucial to this goal,” said Florida Senator Jeff Brandes, who represents the 22nd Florida Senate District, which includes western Hillsborough and southern Pinellas Counties. “Keeping former offenders working and following nationwide best practices to reduce recidivism not only improves public safety, but saves the state a significant sum of money that can be appropriated in other crucial areas of the state budget.”
“Too many offenders are forced to turn back to crime because they were unable to find jobs once they were released from prison. This is unacceptable,” said Florida Representative Katie Edwards, who represents the 98th Florida House District, which includes parts of Davie, Plantation, and Sunrise in southern Broward County. “We must break down barriers to employment for former prisoners so that they can feel self-worth and be successful. Otherwise, we will continue to see crime persist and our tax dollars spent on locking people away.”
Click here to read the entire report.